Europe Day in Atlanta: EU-U.S. Relations improve under Biden, but all is not rosy


Now the European Union go out and say it: The past four years have been a period of damage control in transatlantic relations.

Tomas Baert, Head of Trade and Agriculture at the Delegation of the European Union to the United States

Former president Asset Regularly vilified longtime allies in the EU as undermining US trade and security interests, causing European diplomats to speak cautiously as they weathered the storm of his presidency.

Not that everything was healed, but the relationship returned to a collaborative posture under the president Joe biden, which entered into the Paris climate accords and signaled a collaborative approach on trade and growth China challenge, says Tomas Baert, Head of Trade and Agriculture at the European Union Mission to the United States in Washington.

“We have gone from being a problem to being a partner,” Baert said during a Europe Day webinar held in May with European consulates in Atlanta. “We are looking to move from a transactional approach to a transformational one.”

Mr. Baert, a Belgian by nationality, noted a change in the tone of the relationship: instead of simply avoiding the negative, interlocutors are now trying to accomplish great things together.

“Now we really see opportunities to use the bilateral relationship primarily as a platform to serve a larger agenda which consists of global challenges,” Baert said.

Common priorities include recovery from the pandemic, protecting the environment with prosperity, setting trade standards for the world and strengthening democracy, he said.

But the obstacles that remain are immense. While upholding the principle of openness, the two sides drifted apart on a wide variety of corner issues that have threatened their business relationship.

A major irritant, Baert said, is a dispute over subsidies Airbus, the European aircraft manufacturer, which pushed the United States to file a complaint The world trade organization on behalf of Boeing (a “ceasefire” is in effect for the next few months).

Trump’s “infamous” Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum, which Biden has yet to remove, continue to cause consternation among NATO allies as their rationale is national security.

And of course, there are divergent views on technology, from European privacy regulations to digital tax efforts that America’s tech giants say unfairly target them.

“It is only fitting that large trees are getting a lot of attention in this regard,” Baert said of companies like Facebook and Google, while noting that the EU was trying to come up with a proposal. common on the issue of digital taxation. take to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

China’s challenge

Resolving some of these lingering conflicts will be key to tackling what Baert saw as a matter of consensus: that global collaboration will be needed to address China’s threats to democracy, human rights. man and commerce. European countries like the Netherlands and Germany have been at the forefront of labeling China’s oppression of its Uyghur Muslim minority as genocide, a step the US State Department has also passed.

Economically, more could be done jointly to challenge the “state capitalism” that China has used to develop its economy and gain market share in the world. As the world turns to next-generation technology platforms like 5G, setting standards that incorporate openness and human rights will be more vital, Baert said, noting the intention Mr. Biden’s statement to adopt this allied-centric approach.

“I hope and expect more cooperation as we continue the dialogue on China and end the challenges that the Chinese system presents to both of us in terms of fair competition and values,” he said. he said, noting, however, that the best defense against China is to sharpen the transatlantic. innovation edge. “Our position vis-à-vis China is to make sure we run faster.”

Shopping, diversity and other local issues

Ard van der Vorst

Consul General of the Netherlands Ard Van der Vorst said in his comments that Georgia exports six times more to the European Union than to China, a fact he highlighted in meetings with the governor of Georgia. Brian kemp on the occasion of Europe Day on May 11.

European diplomats also met with the Raphael Bostic to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta to find out how unprecedented fiscal stimulus will affect the outlook for the US economy and those of its trading partners.

Mr Van der Vorst said Europe welcomed Mr Biden’s plan to ‘build back better’, but warned that indications of stricter ‘Buy American’ provisions under Mr Biden could make another point worse. sensitive: European companies feeling excluded from purchasing contracts in the United States

“Build American, buy American – that sounds great, but for us as a consulate it’s also a concern, because what does that mean for our businesses operating here in the Southeast?” he said.

European missions in the southeast will also seek opportunities to participate in productive discussions on race relations, he said, keeping in mind the Black Lives Matter movement and the protests of the past year. It will not be a conference, but a common discussion to take real action, in particular on the equity aspect of the diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives which are at the forefront of the agendas of many companies.

Mr Van der Vorst has been preaching the pragmatic benefits of diversity since moving to the relatively conservative Southeastern United States with her husband in 2019.

“We all know that companies are more successful when they embrace diversity and actively include all walks of life in their organizations,” he said. “We also understand that human capital is actually the most important capital we have as a business.”

This year’s Europe Day webinar was again a collaboration between European consulates and chambers. Speaker of the Netherlands-America Chamber Manori De Silva moderated the discussion, which took on a different tenor than in 2020, on how European companies were struggling to access pandemic relief programs in the US market.

Atlanta is home to diplomatic outposts of 17 EU members, including the six career consulates spanning multiple southern states – Greece, Germany, France, Netherlands, Ireland and Belgium.

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